Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Bulgarian Mafia

Since arriving in Sofia I have heard a lot of  talk about a powerful Mafia presence in Bulgaria. And one sees the evidence everywhere which include lots of tough looking guys sitting around in hotel lobbies and restaurants and large black luxury vehicles such as BMWs, Mercedes and Hummers with black tinted windows cruising the streets.  

On Sunday I had a first-hand Mafia experience: I decided to have lunch at an attractive outdoor cafe and sat down across from two stereotypical mafia guys who I initially didn't pay much attention to.  They looked almost identical, both having close-cropped hair, dark sunglasses, black leather jackets, jeans and boots.  For most of an hour they sat drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, talking on their cellphones and surveying the area while hardly speaking to each other.  On the other side of me, parked illegal at the curb, was a shiny black Mercedes SUV with tinted windows.  All of a sudden one of the guys called the waitress and asked for the bill.  After quickly paying, they started to move towards the SUV when one of them paused sharply and went back to the easy chair he had been sitting in.  I watch as he reached into the side of the chair, took out a large pistol and tucked it under his jacket and into his belt.  He had apparently placed it into the side of the chair because it was uncomfortable while he was sitting.  He suddenly remembered it and went back to get it.  He noticed that I was watching but ignored me.  The two of them then quickly drove away. It was a scene straight out of the Bulgarian version of the Sopranos!

Below are a few links related to the Bulgarian mafia.

On Saturday I took a half day trip away from Sophia to the impressive Rila Monastery, a UNESCO world heritage site stemming back to the 10th Century, and one of the most impressive monasteries  I've seen.  The following link contains the history and some pictures of the monastery.


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